Why wind is important in Croatia: bura vs. jugo

Strong wind creating waves in Opatija
Strong wind creating waves in Opatija

Whether you are going to live on the Croatian coast or an island, visit Croatia as a tourist, or just stop by on your trip to another European country, it’s essential to understand Croatian winds.

It might seem silly to a foreigner, but many Dalmatians believe the wind can not only help determine if rain is on the horizon, but can also affect mood, health, and food production and may even motivate you to commit a crime.

Specifically, the two winds to know are bura and jugo, which represent the northern and southern winds respectively. The eastern and western winds are fairly irrelevant, as in they just levy near the impact of bura and jugo on daily life.

As bura and jugo will inevitably come up in conversation when speaking with a Croatian, it’s best to know why these winds are so important.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

Why wind is important in Croatia: bura vs. jugo

Importance of the wind bura for Croatia

Let’s call bura the good wind.

Bura comes from the northeast, catapulting over the Velebit mountain range out to the Adriatic Sea. It’s a dry, cool wind, which is why it can be freezing on a sunny, cloudless day. If the sun is out and you’re freezing to death, that’s bura. It’s most common in winter but can happen at any time of the year.

[Read: Visit Northern Velebit National Park]

This wind is also perfect and downright required for drying pršut (Dalmatia’s cured ham) as it ages in open houses across Dalmatia. As a wise Croatian woman told me, “Without a bura, there is no good pršut!”

The incredible flavor and saltiness of cheese from Pag Island is also attributed to the bura. As the wind kicks up, it blows the salt from the Adriatic Sea onto the island grass. The sheep graze on the salty grass and herbs, which makes their milk supremely tasty for cheese preparation.

In Dalmatia, the sky can get clogged with a haze that makes the islands barely visible. Bura comes in and wipes the sky clean. It is said that on some days after the bura, one can see Italy from the top of Biokovo Mountain. Every once in a while, there is štrokav bura, or dirty bura, that happens during rainstorms. 

Bura can reach speeds of 220 kilometers (136 miles) per hour but has been clocked as high as 304 kilometers (189 miles) per hour. We are talking hurricane force. Luckily, homes are built of concrete instead of wood, which prevents them from blowing away like they would in the United States.

The strongest bura tends to happen in Senj, near Rijeka. Because of its position on the coast, the bura can blow in multiple directions. During the Eastern European Cold Wave in the winter of 2012, the bura threw fish out of the sea on the island of Pag.

[Read: Best places to go fishing in Croatia (and the rules you must abide by)]

Learn more about bura in a post covering the legend of 3 buras available here.

Importance of the wind jugo for Croatia

Now for the bad wind.

Jugo is a moist wind, typically accompanied by dark clouds and rain-filled storms. It blows in from the southeast, coming over the islands and onto the shore.

Since Dalmatians tend to be sun-loving people, they are not fond of jugo. It is said to cause depression, body aches, pains, headaches, and grumpiness. In this unique part of the world, jugo is always an acceptable excuse for this melancholic behavior or really anything bad that you do during jugo.

At one time, people accused of committing a crime could use jugo as part of their legal defense if the crime happened during jugo winds. Depending on which Dalmatian you talk to, some tell fabled stories of people getting away with murder by using the jugo defense.

The word jugo itself can be used as a synonym for bad or inconvenient. For instance, you could say “This sandwich is really jugo” or “I hope I don’t miss my bus, that would be jugo”.

If the sky is dark and you’re feeling under the weather, just say “to ti je jugo” which means “it is jugo”. Then follow it up with “ne da mi se”, which means “I don’t feel like it”.

[Read: Basic Croatian words and phrases to get through life in Croatia]

The below song called Jugo by Split singer Giuliano will give you a musical intro to the jugo feeling.

View our other ecology posts

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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